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Old 02-04-2018, 05:19 PM
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Default CoderDojo

When I was working in Atlanta a couple years ago, one of the developers I worked with invited me to be a mentor at a CoderDojo he 'championed'. I did it a couple times and enjoyed it, so about six months ago I decided to start one here in Austin.

The whole spirit of CoderDojo is about providing a safe, casual environment where kids who are interested in learning to code can work with, help and/or learn from other like-minded kids. It's a cool concept on paper.

Unfortunately most of what I've seen so far is parents who think learning to code would be beneficial to their kids bringing them in for what they believe to be a free programming class, then never coming back once they realize that isn't exactly what CoderDojo is about. So even on the occasions when we get kids who are interested, they don't want to come back because a) there aren't any other kids there, b) the other kids who are there are a different age/experience level, or c) they're just not interested enough to be self-directed.

Anyway I haven't given up yet, but I'm getting close. Many weeks the only kids who attend are the children of the woman who manages the facility where we hold the event, and they're not getting a lot out of it.

On the bright side, said woman has scheduled a book launch party to overlap with our dojo in a couple weeks and we expect there to be a lot of curious parents and children in attendance. But now I'm anxious to figure out ways to capture their interest; specifically projects they can work on.

Very little kids seem to be content with Scratch, but even then they tend to focus more on the drawing and playing with sounds then they do with the coding part of the exercises. Most of the other kids just want to build video games right out of the gate without having to learn any of the boring stuff.

Every single kid of every age is obsessed with Minecraft, but modding Minecraft means learning Java, and who would do that to a kid?

Anyway, there are a fair amount of resources/suggestions/etc for things to do on the CoderDojo website but so far I haven't found the magic bullet. So now I turn to you, the good people of :ff:, to ask for help.
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2018, 05:35 PM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

VM! :faint:
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Old 02-04-2018, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

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Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
Most of the other kids just want to build video games right out of the gate without having to learn any of the boring stuff.
That is my experience of kids wanting to learn coding. The sample size might be limited to just Little Miss JoeP.

My experience of helping adults learn some aspect of coding - including trying to learn something myself - is that it's much harder, close to pointless, if you don't have something you want to get done. Like, can we display numbers in roman numerals on a web page? :shiftier: Learn PHP...

But conversely, it needs to be something feasible for a beginner in that language / tool. Ie not "make a game". But modding a game ... in stages ... why not?

Java? Kids a few years old can be competent in English, Polish and Tswana. They can learn a lot if immersed and given feedback on errors.
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Old 02-04-2018, 05:47 PM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

VM! YOU EXIST! Man, my ban list has gotten pretty out of control with you being gone so long. I'll PM you.

Have you thought about inviting adults too? I guess it'd be a little tricky because you want to make sure they're not a bunch of pedophiles or something, but as long as someone is there to supervise, coding isn't one of those things where there's a clear general progression of skill level from kid to adult.

Or maybe getting people to volunteer to do little lessons in making some specific thing, like little robotics projects and stuff?
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Old 02-04-2018, 05:51 PM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeP View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
Most of the other kids just want to build video games right out of the gate without having to learn any of the boring stuff.
That is my experience of kids wanting to learn coding. The sample size might be limited to just Little Miss JoeP.
This has been my experience, too. Kids who want to learn the boring stuff probably do it on their own.

But what about a little short class like, "Hello to the World of Hello Worlds," and run through a whole bunch of Hello Worlds? Just to introduce them to the idea in a short attention span way?
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Old 02-05-2018, 12:13 AM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

Some kids get interested in coding by using it to control physical objects. There are some pretty cheap "robot" kits on Ebay, Banggood, Ali Express and similar. "Robot" is a really bad name - they are really just small battery powered cars that can be programmed to move in certain ways.

This kit is about $25 including shipping and includes an Arduino microcontroller board. Tracking Motor Smart Robot Car Chassis Kit 2WD Ultrasonic For Arduino MCU Sale - Banggood.com

So depending on the age and ability of the kids, they can start by building the kit and wiring the motors direct to the battery to make it drive, then add some simple Arduino code to make it drive forwards, turn left, and repeat to drive it around a square or triangle or whatever; after that the kit comes with an ultrasonic detector, so you can program it to stop, back up, and turn to avoid obstacles; then you might want to add some other cheap sensors (photo diodes) so you can program it to follow a track drawn on the floor or similar.

Obviously you can take it as far as you want, but for the kids that are most interested in this kind of kit, it gets them started in using Arduinos or similar to control stuff, and then hopefully they'll come up with some ideas of their own of other things they'd like to try to build/control.

Arduinos are a good starting point as with just a few lines of code you can make lights flash, servos move and so on, but they're quite capable things in the right hands. There is a really strong on-line community with loads of example code and ideas for projects available. You can buy them on Ebay for a few dollars each so it doesn't really matter if they get fried by accident - they're tough little things though that you can't really hurt by programming mistakes and they even usually survive when wired up wrongly.
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Old 02-05-2018, 04:00 AM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

Some good ideas y'all, thanks! I really like the "Hello Worlds" idea in particular. I only recently learned how silly it is to evaluate developers by how many languages they know, so it would be cool to show the kids how a single concept is expressed in many different syntaxes.

I brought my bb-8 to the session today and the kids really enjoyed playing with it, but they weren't particularly interested in programming it. I still think it's a good idea to try arduino and such so I'll definitely do more of that.

A couple new kids were there today but due to a miscommunication they came too late to really get anything done. If they come back the older one (12) wants to make a game in Roblox, so now I'm learning how to use Roblox!
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Old 02-05-2018, 08:06 AM
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I only recently learned how silly it is to evaluate developers by how many languages they know
Oh yeah? How many languages do you know?
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Old 02-08-2018, 04:59 AM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

I'm not a developer! Checkmate.
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Old 02-08-2018, 10:19 AM
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Default Re: CoderDojo

So ... none?
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Old 02-08-2018, 10:20 AM
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I'm not a developer! Checkmate.
I'm evaluating judging you anyway.
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